Saturday, May 21, 2016

What's a compass?

Our second morning in Komodo began like all the mornings aboard the Ikan Biru, to the gentle hum of the electric generator, a beautiful sunrise and the friendly voice of Alexi "good morning everyone!"  But the rest of this morning was a little different in that we replaced the morning dive with a trip to Loh Buaya Island to do some hiking and view wildlife on land versus in the ocean, specifically the Komodo Dragon. Six of us hopped aboard the dive boat and cruised to the only access point to the park. A small dock in the bay near the entrance. 
It didn't take us long to come across a bunch of the giant lizards. They hang out near the park village not because they get fed by the people, but because smaller animals hang around the village and they eat the smaller animals. The ol food chain thing. They really are interesting to see up close. This particular guy was heating up his body in the morning sunlight. 
Though they usually move very slowly, they can quickly attack an unsuspecting victim and are considered dangerous. It is curious to me that the only protection we have is a two pronged stick that our guide, Ahmed, (who looked 12 years old) carried with him. 

It was a very interesting way to spend the morning. We saw snakes, water buffalo, wild pigs, deer and a massive bee hive about 2 meters long (that metric thing again).  Yes the views were spectacular and seeing the rare animals was a treat, the best part about the trip might have been that I got to put on some shoes. 

The view from the top of the park was fantastic. I really felt safe in this photo knowing Ahmed has his stick at the ready should we be attacked. 
When we returned to the village we saw another dragon and took a risk for the classic photo op. Hey after the Cauldron dive, this is nothing. Besides, we've got Ahmed and his stick. The dragon looks fake but he was definately real.    
After a couple hours, it was back to the boat and some more open water training. Today's lesson? Underwater navigation. My tool of choice when it comes to navigation is asking Siri, but apparently divers still use a thing called a compass. Instead of paces we count kick cycles. Our mission today was to use a compass and kick cycles to head out to a location, turn around and come back to the same spot (did I mention we were 10 meters underwater while doing this?). We found a sandy area which made this even more challenging because there were no landmarks to follow. Remember, our instructor pulled out the sunset technicality rule yesterday so there is no way he was letting us off easy on navigation. From the surface you can see our "playing field."
All that light area is like an underwater desert of sand just waiting for Cheryl and I to get lost in. We get to work as a team on this one which I guess is helpful, but it's not like either one of us is Daniel Boone or Sacagawea. The best part about this is that we have regulators in our mouths which significantly reduces our ability to yell at each other. 

This dive took place right off the Ikan Biru so in we went!  First Cheryl....
Then me......
As if me trying to use a compass for navigation was not handicap enough, jumping straight off the boat threw off my pre dive routine and I forgot to spit in my mask and so it kept fogging up during the dive. This lesson had FAIL written all over it. 

We did OK with the out and back (I know that it's just a straight line, but hey it was a confidence booster) The square was a little more tricky.  We had to do it a few times because during our first attempt I was so focused on my heading that I forgot to monitor my depth and next thing you know, Cheryl and I were near the surface. Strike 1. Cheryl then took over the compass and did a little better but we still missed the mark. Strike 2. The final exercise was for Doug to take us away from the boat and we needed to find our way back. This is one time I was thankful for being an air pig because by the time we got to this portion of the training we didn't have enough air to go too far so we were able to get back OK. Boom!  Though we don't get letter grades during this training, for our performance in this section, I imagine we were hovering around a D. That's passing though!

After the navigational debacle, I was ready for some relaxation and time in the sun with the rest of the guests on the boat. Here we are from left to right. Cheryl, Flo (Germany), Mariah (Canada), me, Patrick (Canada), Andre, (Hong Kong) and Marv (Canada). 
A great bunch of people!

The rest of the day consisted of a "fun dive" at the Tengah site which means we had no training objective and got to just have fun enjoying the warm water and beautiful sea life. We also completed our last night dive since we will be leaving tomorrow afternoon. Komodo treated us to one last gorgeous sunset. 
The one negative of the day was that I stubbed my toe on one of the steps in the boat and either sprained it badly or possibly broke it. As if my feet didn't hate me enough already!
With less than a full day left on the boat, the realization is starting to set in that we will be coming home soon. There are mixed emotions in that our time here has been unforgettable and we hate to leave, but we miss our friends and family and look forward to seeing everyone back in the good ol USA.

But there is one day left on the boat and we plan to enjoy every minute!  

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